Heiniger assumes command of 123rd Contingency Response Group

Story by Master Sgt. Phil Speck, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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Lt. Col. Mark Heiniger receives his first salute as commander of the 123rd Contingency Response Group during a change-of-command ceremony held Sept. 15, 2012, at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky. Also pictured is the group’s former commander, Col. Warren Hurst, who has been promoted to command the 123rd Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Rechel)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVLLE, Ky. — Lt. Col. Mark Heiniger assumed command of the 123rd Contingency Response Group during a ceremony Sept. 15 at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville.

Heiniger, a C-130 pilot who most recently served as deputy commander of the 123rd Maintenance Group, was selected for the job because of his experience and dedication, said Col. Warren Hurst, commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing.

“Colonel Heiniger is a highly experienced C-130 pilot who has flown numerous contingency missions worldwide for over 25 years,” Hurst said. “He knows how an operation should run to safely maximize airlift capability.

“As a traditional Guardsman, his level of volunteerism has earned him the moniker ‘war horse,’ which is fitting because he has participated in so many deployments.  His civilian and military experience will be a great asset to the CRG.”

The contingency response group is designed to be an early responder in the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other major emergency anywhere within the United States. It also can support military contingency operation worldwide. The group facilitated civil-military air relief efforts during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, delivering more than 725 short tons of humanitarian aid.

Heiniger earned a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University in 1984 and completed pilot training in 1985. For the next six years, he served as a C-130 pilot for the 50th Tactical Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark.

He joined the Kentucky Air National Guard in 1995 and became an evaluator pilot for the 165th Airlift Squadron before serving as chief of standards and evaluation.

Heininger was named commander of the 123rd Operations Support Flight in 2002 and later led flying operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom during a seven-month overseas deployment to U.S. Central Command.

In 2007, Heiniger was named commander of the 165th Airlift Squadron, leading the unit through two successful Operational Readiness Inspections, three Air Expeditionary Force deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and numerous Joint Forge and Coronet Oak deployments to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Puerto Rico, respectively.

Heiniger is a veteran of numerous combat operations, including Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. He also has deployed in support of Operations Volant Pine, Restore Hope, Provide Promise, Volant Oak, Joint Enterprise and Coronet Oak.

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